Mention the “Oris Aquis” watch to timepiece lovers, and you’ll tend to get positive facial reactions but also little agreement as to what timepiece you are actually referring to. The Aquis family isn’t the only assortment of diver’s style watches produced by the Swiss brand, but it is the largest. Right now on the Oris website there are over 40 Aquis versions, depending on the various case sizes, colors, and movements used. Why is the Oris Aquis collection so robust? The simple answer is because the Aquis dive watch formula works rather well, and Oris has been called upon to make a flavor for as many different wearers and markets as possible. In trying to select a middle-of-the-road model that represents the collection, I chose to review this reference Oris Aquis Date 43.5mm-wide watch that has a deep metallic blue dial and black ceramic bezel.

In understanding the Aquis watches as part of the larger pantheon of fine Swiss timepieces, it is important to understand where  the Oris Aquis fits in competitively. Having thought about this question, I like to refer to the Oris Aquis as the middle “just warm enough” porridge, as there are dive watches from Switzerland that are much more expensive (plenty of them) as well as a host of watches that are much less expensive. Given the steep competition in dive watches today, it can very a challenge to explain to any particular buyer why one or another timepiece is right for them.

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What draws me to the Aquis, even before its value pricing, is the design. As someone who has worn more steel Swiss diver’s watches than I’d like to admit, I have a lot to compare the Aquis with. There is really no one area that the Aquis does anything better than others, but what it does offer is a truly handsome and distinctive look. Good and identifiable looks are at the cornerstone of why the timepiece community continues to rally behind the Aquis — and after that, the value for the money.

The most identifiable elements of most Aquis watches are the case, bracelet, dial, and hands. While in no way radical, these elements are clearly identifiable as coming from Oris. This is important to mention because when it comes to value-pricing for a well-made diver’s watch, one of the most common trade-offs is distinctive looks. In other words, most budget (even Swiss) dive watches more or less look like other timepieces on the market. With Oris, you don’t have that problem.

I also like that the Oris Aquis Date (and other Aquis models) make for really effective actual diver’s watches. In terms of comfort and technical specs, most all Aquis watches perform quite well underwater. The 43.5mm-wide case is water-resistant to 300 meters, being about 12mm-thick with a 50mm lug-to-lug distance. Over the dial is a decently AR-coated (though a bit more AR-coating would have been nice) and domed sapphire crystal. As I mentioned above, the uni-directional rotating diver’s style bezel has a polished black ceramic insert, with white-colored and engraved minute markers.

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The particular design of the thick but stubby lugs, the crown and crown guard assembly, and of course the tapering matching steel bracelet is ripe with Oris DNA. Like most attractive steel sports watches, both the case and bracelet are contrast-polished with some brushed surfaces and some mirror-polished surfaces. On the bracelet, you see polished outer links and a brushed center link. This is probably done like this on purpose to offer something different to the popular Rolex GMT Master II bracelet, which is polished on the inside link and brushed on the outer link.

Given that the bracelet is so thick, 24mm-wide at the lugs, it narrows down appreciably for wearing comfort. I do like the style of the bracelet end-lugs, and of course, there is a similar experience with the available rubber straps for the Oris Aquis. Having said that, but nature has a proprietary design, you can only use Oris or other specially shaped straps and bracelets if you don’t want to use the strap or bracelet that Oris supplies.

We have particular expectations from a steel bracelet for a diver’s watch. I’ve reviewed other Oris timepieces and I routinely find that the Aquis collection tends to have more substantial and high-quality bracelets compared to some other Oris timepieces. The steel bracelet links use screw bars and the bracelet also has a diver’s extension in the deployant. There is no fancy on-the-fly micro-adjust system, but using a tool you can size the bracelet with precision using the three holes in the deployant, as well as the fact that the bracelet has a half-link for more precision sizing. Rather than the standard locking deployant you see on most diver’s watches, Oris uses a fold-over push-button deployant. This is technically not as desirable as a locking clasp for serious diving duty, but Oris is correct that most Aquis Date watches are worn as a “desk diver,” and thus the push-button deployant is more than acceptable (and in many instances preferred).

Over the years I’ve come to appreciate Oris’ take on the diver’s watch dial across many Aquis models. Here we see a very purist execution of the core aesthetic which I believe defines the line. First, you have the distinctive bold and tapering hands, as well as the also distinctive applied hour markers. The dial has a lot of polished elements but the high contrast between the hands, markers, and face make for very good legibility. The shinier elements give the watch a more high-end look, allowing for the Oris Aquis Date to have a luxury look as well as being a serious tool watch. My favorite part of the dial is the symmetry and the fact that the date (placed symmetrically above 6 o’clock versus at the more common 3 o’clock position) does not entirely cut out the hour marker which is placed adjacent to it. Also note how the date blends in nicely using a black versus white-colored disc. Oris also has to be uncommon here by writing the semi-vague (and also redundant given the water resistance rating label) “pressure resistant” term on the dial.

On the rear of the case you have a view of the movement through the mineral glass window sapphire is used for the front of the watch). Being able to view the movement is less common on dive watches, so this is a nice feature to have. Oris calls the mechanical movement their caliber Oris 733. It is a base Swiss Made Sellita SW200-1 automatic (which is more or less a clone of the ETA 2824-2). The movement isn’t really decorated but it does have the iconic red-colored Oris automatic rotor. The movement operates at 4Hz with 38 hours of power reserve. Nothing wrong with the movement, but this is about as expensive as I’d prefer to go to pay for a SW200. I would have preferred Oris to use the slightly finer SW300, or to at least offer a bit of decoration to the SW200 movements they use for the Aquis Date. With that said, my statement about the movement is as a watch nerd, and the majority of owners will not think twice about being happy with the Swiss Made automatic movement inside the Oris Aquis models.

Oris produces other versions of the Aquis both in larger and smaller cases. As someone who has smaller wrists but who likes larger watches, this 43.5mm-wide model is ideal for me. Oris makes other dive watches in a variety of styles and sizes ranging from under 40mm wide to over 45mm-wide. It is not uncommon for watch lovers to have difficulty in deciding which model is right for them, so especially when it comes to the Oris Aquis (or their other diver’s watches) I highly encourage people to try them on before they make a decision. Price for the reference Oris Aquis Date 43.5mm watch is $2,200 USD. Learn more at the Oris website here.

Necessary Data
>Brand: Oris
>Model: Aquis Date 43.5mm (reference as tested)
>Price: $2,200 USD
>Size: 43.5mm-wide, ~12mm thick, and ~50mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As a daily wear “desk diver” or happily when on vacation or other adventure when you want to wear something nice, but a bit more under-the-radar.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: New or otherwise prudent timepiece collector seeking a versatile and high-spec diver’s watch from Switzerland that comes with among the more fair prices around (that also doesn’t look generic).
>Best characteristic of watch: Oris has been doing an excellent job of iteratively improving upon the Aquis every few generations. While the Aquis collection is a bit of a bear, at its core these are highly recognizable, high-performance sport watches for a fair asking price. Attractive, legible, dial design.
>Worst characteristic of watch: The steel Swiss diver’s watch market is huge, and on paper, the Aquis doesn’t really stand out in any one way. It also requires a fair bit of exposure to appreciate the particular benefits of an Oris Aquis, and by the time many consumers have realized that they might be willing to spend more on one of the Aquis’ appreciably more expensive timepiece competitors.

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